You are here

Twenty Seven Heart Attack Patients from County Donegal Benefit from Cross Border Service in Northern Ireland

A cross border cardiology service at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry/Londonderry has enabled 27 patients (to date) from County Donegal with a diagnosed ST-Elevation Myocardial infarction condition (heart attack) to receive lifesaving  primary Percutaneous Coronary Invention (pPCI Services) treatment.


The 24/7 clinical service commenced on 4th May 2016 with the co-signing of a comprehensive cross border Service Level Agreement by the Western Health & Social Care Trust (WHSCT) and Saolta University Health Care Group (Saolta). This has made provision for potentially 50 to 60 patients per year receiving this life-saving care.


The first-of-its-kind cross border service is the result of a review of Cardiology Services in the North West area, completed in 2013 and chaired by Dr Colm Henry, National Clinical Advisor for HSE Acute Hospitals.  A key recommendation in the report stated that patients requiring pPCI who are within 90 minutes road time from Derry should be referred to Altnagelvin Hospital.


Dr Jim Crowley, Clinical Lead for Saolta said “The cross border cardiology service between Saolta and the Western Health and Social Care Trust is working extremely well. Patients from County Donegal who suffer a heart attack receive emergency potentially life-saving coronary intervention treatment at Altnagelvin Hospital”.

The 27 patients from County Donegal who received pPCI treatment at Altnagelvin Hospital were successfully treated and transferred after their procedure by ambulance to Letterkenny University Hospital or Sligo University Hospital.  Mr Donie Cronin, shown below, from County Donegal was one of those patients.

Mr Cronin stated “I am very grateful for this life saving patient service and to all involved in my care. Thankfully I am doing really well now”.

Dr Albert McNeill, Clinical Lead for WHSCT commented on the benefits of the service: “Receiving this treatment as soon as possible improves patient survival and reduces the long term heart damage caused by heart attacks. The clinical service is a good example of how health care organisations & professionals across jurisdictions can work together for the benefit of patients.”


The pPCI service developed as a result of close co-operation between medical, nursing, ambulance and managerial staff from various stakeholder organisations North and South of the border. These included Saolta University Health Care Group, the Western Health & Social Care Trust, Health & Social Care Board (NI), Public Health Agency for NI, the HSE National Ambulance Service, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), Cooperation & Working Together (CAWT) partnership and County Donegal General Practitioners.

Western Trust Chief Executive, Elaine Way said : “We are delighted to be working collaboratively with our colleagues in Saolta University Health Care Group as we work towards enhancing cardiology services for patients living in County Donegal. The new service is being delivered by an exceptional cardiac intervention team and provides real benefits to heart attack patients through rapid access to high quality, life-saving services.”

Saolta Group Chief Executive, Maurice Power stated : “It’s great to see this cross border patient service up and running. In another joint effort between the Western Trust and the Saolta Group, patients from Donegal now have access to radiotherapy services at Altnagelvin. There are long established working relationships between our services and the Western Health & Social Care Trust and these can be developed further in the future, where there is mutual benefit for each of our populations and services”


Sean Murphy, General Manager of Letterkenny University Hospital added, “This service has delivered the appointment of a second cardiologist in LUH who also undertakes sessions in Altnagelvin and participates in their emergency on-call rota. Donegal patients who would have previously been transferred from LUH to Dublin or Galway can now have their procedure in Altnagelvin and are then transferred back to LUH”.


Health Minister (NI) Michelle O’Neill said:  “I would like to congratulate the team at the Western Trust and Saolta for their work in developing this fantastic service. This clearly demonstrates the life-saving benefit of All-Ireland approaches to healthcare in meeting patients’ needs and improving access to vital services. Exploring further opportunities to build upon these excellent relationships is important, particularly where there is potential for mutual health benefits to be achieved for patients north and south.”


The cross border cardiology service is available for patients in the County Donegal area who become ill with a suspected heart attack.  Patients are encouraged to follow the normal processes for seeking medical attention in the jurisdiction. Protocols are in place for the diagnosis of their condition and where it is deemed appropriate for pPCI treatment, the National Ambulance Service will transfer the patient across the border to Altnagelvin Hospital.



Notes to Editor:

Photo: (Photo of a recently PPCI treated County Donegal patient Mr Donie Cronin (Centre) in Altnagelvin Hospital along with clinical personnel (left to right) Bernie McCallan, Dr Aaron Peace, Dr Godfrey Aleong and Dr Albert McNeill).

The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH)